BIT World Travel Service
Escorted Tour - Belgium Overview

Belgium Overview

Smack-bang in the middle of Western Europe, this compact multilingual country effortlessly blends the historic with the new; from countless castles and medieval belfries to innovative art museums and hip cafes. And with some of the best comfort food on offer, you'll need to pack an empty stomach for gorging on waffles, chocolate, frites and piles of steaming mussels, all washed down with the country's famous frothy beer.

Renowned Belgium Tourist Attractions
Museum St-Janshospitaal

In the restored chapel of a 12th-century hospital building with superb timber beam work, this museum shows various torturous-looking medical implements, hospital sedan chairs and a gruesome 1679 painting of an anatomy class. But it is much better known for six masterpieces by 15th-century artist Hans Memling, including the enchanting reliquary of St Ursula. This gilded oak reliquary looks like a mini Gothic cathedral, painted with scenes from the life of St Ursula, including highly realistic Cologne cityscapes.

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb

Formidable queues form to see The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (De Aanbidding van het Lams God), a lavish representation of medieval religious thinking that is one of the earliest-known oil paintings. Completed in 1432, it was painted as an altarpiece by the Flemish Primitive artists, the Van Eyck brothers, and has 20 panels (originally the interior panels were displayed only on important religious occasions, but these days they're always open to view).

The work represents an allegorical glorification of Christ's death: on the upper tier sits God the Father flanked by the Virgin and John the Baptist and on the outer panels is the nude Adam and Eve. The lower tier centers on the lamb, symbolizing the sacrifice made by Christ, surrounded by all manner of religious figures and a landscape dotted with local church towers. The luminous colors and the rich, detailed crowd scenes are stunning.

Groening museum

Bruges’ most celebrated art gallery boasts an astonishingly rich collection whose strengths are in superb Flemish Primitive and Renaissance works, depicting the conspicuous wealth of the city with glitteringly realistic artistry. In room 2 are meditative works including Jan Van Eyck’s 1436 radiant masterpiece Madonna with Canon George Van der Paele (1436) and the Madonna by the Master of the Embroidered Foliage, where the rich fabric of the Madonna’s robe meets the ‘real’ foliage at her feet with exquisite detail.


This 11th-century church was part of one of Europe’s foremost abbeys, founded in 648. It's 102m long with a soaring multilevel western facade topped with a squat octagonal tower flanked by turrets. The interior’s enormous Romanesque arches are unadorned, but notice the 15th-century chariot that’s still used to carry Ste-Gertrude’s silver châsse during Nivelles' principal procession. Fascinating and detailed two-hour guided tours in French get you access to the crypt, the tower gallery and the pretty cloister for photogenic views.

The pleasant cloisters are another highlight. Outside, watch the southern turret to see a 350kg gilt statue strike the hour with a hefty hammer. Tours also take in archaeological excavations and the grave of Charlemagne’s lofty first wife, Himeltrude, whose 1.85m skeleton can be seen reflected by a well-placed mirror.

Mons Memorial Museum

A superb new museum, this extensive display mostly covers Mons' experience of the two world wars, though the constant sieges of this town's turbulent history are also mentioned. It gets the balance just right between military history, personal testimony of civilians and soldiers, and thought-provoking items on display. Some seriously good visuals make the to-and-fro (and stuck for years in the mud) of WWI instantly comprehensible, and there's an animated 3D film on the legend of the Angels of Mons.

Mons was the scene of the first British involvement in WWI, and its liberation coincided with the end of the conflict. In between, the city lived through a four-year German occupation, an experience it relived just 22 years later. The museum's strength is its focus on the human side of war, whether through soldiers' diaries or the day-to-day hardships of civilians. Poignant items are numerous, including a cross made by locals for a German and an English soldier buried together, and the tombstone of the last WWI soldier killed, two minutes before the armistice.

Blégny Mine

For one of the best industrial experience tours you'll find anywhere, don a hard hat, jump in the cage lift and descend through a pitch-black moment into the life of a 20th-century Belgian miner. The two-hour guided tour of Unesco-listed Blégny Mine starts with a 20-minute film (English subtitles) before setting off to soak up the sounds and smells of the pit.

Citadelle de Namur

Dominating the town, Namur's mighty fortress covers a whole hilltop with ramparts, tunnels and grey walls. What you see now is more 19th and 20th century than medieval, and is compelling, great for strolling and offers terrific views. The best are from a section known as Château des Comtes and the café Le Panorama, by the curious art deco sportsgroundStade des Jeux. Most open areas, including the rampart footpaths, are accessible at any time.

Château de Bouillon

Slouching like a great grey dragon high on the central rocky ridge, Belgium’s finest feudal castle, accessed by two stone bridges between crags, harks back to 988, but is especially associated with Crusader knight Godefroid (Godefroy) de Bouillon, whose name you’ll hear a lot in these parts . The super-atmospheric castle still sums up everything you might wish for – dank dripping passageways tunnelling into the hillside, musty half-lit cell rooms, rough-hewn stairwells and many an eerie nook and cranny to discover.

Bastogne War Museum

This marvelous modern museum takes you into the heart of WW2, audio-guided by imagined voices of civilian and military participants. The entrance level focuses on the lead-up to the war, and then covers key events. It's a useful summary, with well-presented snippets and a short 3D film. Downstairs is the Battle of the Bulge and defence of Bastogne. It has two brilliantly-realized theatrical audiovisuals among well-displayed memorabilia and information. Near the end, don't miss two TVs with survivors of atrocities recounting their shattering experiences.

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